Pyser Testing

Government Adviser Says the Prevalence of Covid Variants Means “There’s a Very Strong Argument” for Vaccinating Children

Despite warnings from a wide range of health experts, including a member of the Government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, against giving children Covid vaccines, it seems increasingly likely that Government’s across the U.K. will decide to include children in their vaccine roll-outs in the near future.

On Saturday, Professor Peter Openshaw, a member of the Government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) and Professor of Experimental Medicine at Imperial College London, said that the prevalence of Covid variants means “there’s a very strong argument” for the vaccination of children. The MailOnline has more.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “A lot of people are sitting on the fence about this but I think on balance I’m coming to the view that vaccination of children – there’s a very strong argument there.”

He said the vaccine was safe for children, while prolonged symptoms of coronavirus meant one in ten sufferers have not fully recovered.   

He added: “Originally with the Wuhan strain it didn’t seem there was very much amplification of the epidemic going on amongst people who were at school in contrast to what we know about influenza, where schools are often the major driver of spread. 

“But with these more transmissible variants it is evident that they are being transmitted much more amongst young adults and school children and even younger children and that seems perhaps to be a change in the biological quality of the infection. 

“It’s still fortunately not causing very high disease rates amongst those kids but it does strengthen the argument against vaccination.”

He said the Government “absolutely needs to have the discussion” as research proves the “safety and efficacy in terms of generating an antibody response in children”…

Meanwhile, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) last week approved Pfizer’s Covid vaccine for 12 to 15 year-olds.

But no decision has yet been taken on whether to extend the rollout to under-18s once all adults have been offered a jab.

And there are now concerns in the U.S. that the Pfizer jab might have health risks for children that outweigh the benefits, with officials there fearing around 200 cases of heart damage among under-30s could have been linked to the jab.

The MHRA said it has not seen any such cases in the U.K. but the JCVI has advised that young adults or children should not be given the AstraZeneca jab unless it’s the only option because of a small blood clot risk.

The JCVI is expected to tell ministers the move to give jabs to children would be a “political decision”.

Worth reading in full.

More Than Half of Brits Who Said They Would Turn Down Covid Vaccine Have Now Had One

More than half of Brits who said they would definitely not get a Covid vaccine last winter have since had one, according to a study by King’s College London and the University of Bristol of almost 5,000 adults aged 18 to 75. In particular, there has been a notable shift in attitudes in favour of the vaccine among people from ethnic minority backgrounds. The Telegraph has the story.

While more than a third [of participants last winter] were certain they would opt for a vaccine and almost one in five thought it was likely, others were unsure or thought it unlikely. Seven per cent said they would definitely not do so.

Researchers questioned almost 2,000 of those who took part in the first survey again in April and found that 52% who had said they would definitely not get a Covid vaccine had already done so if one had been offered. 

Overall, 94% of people invited for a vaccine have taken up the offer, the survey found. 

The study is based on a survey of 4,896 U.K. adults aged 18 to 75 conducted between April 1st and 16st. It follows up research carried out in November and December and tracks 1,879 of the same individuals to see how their views have changed and why.

The research found that vaccine confidence has grown in many ethnic minority groups. While 36% of people from ethnic minority backgrounds had said they were certain or very likely to get vaccinated when asked in November and December, 72% of those have either now been jabbed or intend to be. 

Among white people, the proportion saying the same has increased from 56% to 87%.

The survey found there are still major differences between different religious groups. While 67% of Muslims now express vaccine confidence – up from 23% last year – this is far less than among Anglicans, of whom 94% are certain or very likely to get a jab or have already had one. 

Researchers said hesitancy was not driven by religious practice but by different beliefs in different religious groups, with Muslims four times as likely as the public overall to think that vaccines contain pork products.

Among this group, people were far more likely to think that the vaccines affect fertility, with 29% believing people who have had the jab may find it harder to have children in future, compared with seven per cent of the population overall who believe this.

Dr Siobhan McAndrew, a Senior Lecturer in Quantitative Social Science at Bristol, said the driving force behind the change in attitude was often the “concrete benefits of being vaccinated in terms of being able to travel and to see family and friends again”. She is quoted in the Guardian:

Part of the rise in vaccine confidence relates to social proof: people feel more confident because they observe others taking their vaccine with confidence… For some, actually being invited helped them make up their mind.

The Telegraph report is worth reading in full.

News Round-Up

PHE Briefing Claims Indian Variant is 64% More Infectious – But Dig Down and the Finding Falls Apart

Public Health England (PHE) released its latest technical briefing (number 15) yesterday on “variants of concern” which claimed the Delta (Indian) variant is 64% more infectious than the Alpha (British) variant. But look closer and you find this headline finding is not all it seems.

In the underlying study the researchers admit they did not control for the crucial factor of household size – bigger households will tend to have more secondary infections because there are more people in the household being exposed. The authors acknowledge that many of the Delta variant households may have been larger than Alpha variant households (say, because of different proportions of different ethnic groups), and also that many of the matched controls may have lived alone – they have no way of knowing.

We did not have information on household size, which is likely to have an effect on the estimates of transmissibility. For example, some controls (sporadic cases) will have lived alone and have no chance of onward transmission within their residence and therefore becoming a household cluster. However, we were unable to identify and exclude these cases in the analysis. Further studies of household transmission that includes denominators of all individuals in the household and their vaccination status are needed to provide improved estimates of household transmission and allow for the calculation of household secondary attack rates.

This factor by itself undermines the entire 64% claim and means it should be ignored.

Separate to this, the technical briefing provides some raw data on secondary attack rates (the proportion of contacts infected people infect) that give us an important insight into the real transmissibility of the variants.

Nightclubs and Bars May Sue the Government to Prevent Delay to Covid Restrictions

Following the news that the June 21st reopening is likely to be delayed by at least four weeks, reports have emerged that nightclubs and bars are considering suing the Government to prevent the extension of lockdown. The Guardian has the story.

The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) is understood to be weighing up legal action on behalf of venues such as nightclubs that have spent money to be ready to welcome guests after a year of enforced closure.

According to the trade body, 54% of businesses have ordered stock, 73% have called in staff and 60% have sold tickets.

Hospitality bosses said they were increasingly resigned to the prospect that rules such as social distancing and compulsory mask-wearing will not be relaxed, potentially until July.

“It was almost in touching distance and now feels like it’s slipping away,” said Chris Jowsey, the head of the 1,000-strong pub chain Admiral Taverns.

“We need people in the pubs to trade profitably. People might say it’s only a fortnight or four weeks, but [publicans] are hanging on by their fingertips.”

Many pubs and restaurants opened when restrictions eased in April and May under the first two stages of Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown. But nightclubs and smaller venues, where social distancing is impossible, have been shut for either six months or in many cases since the onset of the pandemic.

“If this gets pushed down the line, they’ve used their last cash resource to get to the point where they can open the doors,” said NTIA’s Chief Executive, Michael Kill. “They’ve committed money to preparing, to stocking, staff training. There’s talk about two weeks [delay], four weeks and the uncertainty is killing them.”

He said the anxiety was exacerbated by a lack of any solution to a looming rent crunch. A Government-imposed moratorium that prevents commercial landlords from demanding late rent payments comes to an end on July 1st.

“We’ve got people who have compromised themselves financially who don’t know if they’ll get out of debt,” said Kill. “The anxiety levels associated with commercial debt, which still doesn’t have a solution with two weeks left, is exceptional.”

Richard Nattriss, a nightclub owner who runs Raw in Whitby, North Yorkshire, said: “Our building is owned by a pension fund, like a lot of places, and there’s been no concession on rents. We’ve paid full rent through the entire thing and the grants haven’t covered that, so we’re desperate to open to get the cashflow.”

Nattriss said he had already spent money on stocking up, amid shortage of supply of some drinks, but did not believe nightclubs would be able to open until July 5th at the earliest.

“Even though they say the restrictions are lifting, we know in our heart of hearts they’re not going to do that,” he said.

Worth reading in full.

June 21st “Freedom Day” Called Off for at Least Four Weeks

It is being reported across the media – so it’s clearly been briefed out by Downing Street – that the long-awaited June 21st reopening is to be delayed by at least four weeks because the Prime Minister has been convinced by his scientific advisers that the recent rise in the Delta variant makes reopening too risky. The Telegraph has the story.

June 21st will no longer herald a full return to normality after Boris Johnson resigned himself to a delay of up to four weeks in lifting the remaining Covid restrictions.

The Prime Minister will tell the country on Monday that the latest data on the spread of the Indian or Delta virus variant means it is too risky to go ahead as planned. A four-week delay would mean pushing the date back to July 19th.

It had been hoped that weddings at least would be given a special dispensation after 50,000 couples – many of whom will have cancelled or delayed earlier celebrations – booked ceremonies for the four weeks following what had been billed as “freedom day”.

But senior government sources said that while Mr Johnson might increase the current 30-person limit at weddings, restrictions on numbers would have to remain after officials from Matt Hancock’s health department warned that they could become “super-spreader” events.

The British Medical Association became the latest body to call for a delay after data released on Friday showed the ‘R’ rate at its highest since January – between 1.2 and 1.4 – with daily cases reaching 8,125, the highest number since February.

Figures published by Public Health England showed that 42,323 cases of the Indian variant have been confirmed in the UK – an increase of 240% from last week. PHE estimates that the strain is 60% more transmissible than the Kent or alpha variant, with cases doubling every four and a half days in some parts of England.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) is understood to have warned the Government that a third wave of Covid cases could exceed the first wave peak if the June 21st reopening were to go ahead as planned.

Worth reading in full.

Florida has been open since September 2020. Texas reopened in March. But this delay means the U.K. won’t be open until at least July 19th. I’d like to say the Prime Minister will suffer the consequences at the polls for continuing to keep the electorate under extreme restrictions, ignoring the plain evidence from the U.S. that reopening is safe, as well as the overwhelming evidence that lockdowns don’t reduce transmission. But we all know most of our fellow citizens will buy the fear they’re sold and lap up the lockdown, and likely reward the Conservatives at the next election for keeping them “safe”.

The Covid tyranny continues. 😡

Stop Press: The Sun is reporting that there will be a two-week “break clause” on July 5th and if infections are falling and hospitalisations are low, restrictions could be eased. Yeah, right.

FDA Tells People to Throw Innova Lateral Flow Tests in the Bin

The American Food and Drug Agency (FDA) says the performance of the Innova-manufactured lateral flow test – the one in use across Britain, including in schools – has not been proven to be reliable and, for that reason, the test should either be returned to the manufacturer or thrown in the bin. The Guardian has more.

The FDA has raised significant concerns about the rapid Covid test on which the U.K. Government has based its multibillion-pound mass testing programme.

In a scathing review, the US health agency suggested the performance of the test had not been established, presenting a risk to health, and that the tests should be thrown in the bin or returned to the California-based manufacturer Innova.

In the UK, these lateral flow Innova tests form the cornerstone of Operation Moonshot, the mass-testing scheme championed by the prime minister’s former chief adviser. The idea was that the ability to deliver results within 30 minutes – without the need for processing in a laboratory – provided a cheap, pragmatic and efficient way to identify people who had caught the virus but not fallen ill. But critics have raised concerns about accuracy.

Given the tests have been offered free to millions in England, for use at home or at test centres, workplaces and schools, with the aim of detecting more cases, breaking chains of transmission and saving lives since April, the FDA announcement is particularly damning.

The US agency has not authorised the use of the Innova test in the US, although the manufacturer has submitted a request for authorisation. But when the FDA discovered the Innova test was being distributed for US use regardless, it conducted an inspection of Innova’s medical device operations between March and April 2021.

In its report, the agency accused the company of “false or misleading” estimates of the clinical performance of certain configurations of the test, saying the estimates did not accurately reflect the performance of the diagnostic devices during clinical studies.

The FDA also highlighted that the clinical study data submitted by Innova as part of its request for US authorisation was identical to data previously provided by other manufacturers in separate requests.

Worth reading in full.

Stadium Cancels Tickets for June 26th After “Discussions With Government”

A reader contacted us to tell us he just received the email above from the Ageas Bowl in Southampton, cancelling his tickets for the June 26th cricket match between England and Sri Lanka – five days after “Freedom Day”. It reads: “You will be aware of the continuing uncertainty around the return of supporters to sports stadia. In light of this and following discussions with Government and public health agencies, the capacity of the stadium has been restricted for this match.”

The reader comments:

Now, the really telling part of this is where it says “following discussions with Government and public health agencies” because this shows us that the decision to cancel most fans’ tickets hasn’t been made by those at Hampshire County Cricket Club because of what they think is the best approach – it is because of what they have been told to do.

I don’t want to spread fear over a delay to the easing of social distancing while we await Monday’s announcement or confirmation, but it seems incredibly unlikely to me that the Government would tell Hampshire CCC to reduce the capacity for this game if they hadn’t already made up their minds that social distancing will still be in place at least up until June 26th.

The signs are becoming ominous indeed. It will now be a pleasant surprise if Boris comes out on Monday and announces – as he should – that Freedom Day is going ahead as planned. As usual, the doom-mongers around the Prime Minister are winning. Will they ever let us go?

Meanwhile, more than two months ago in Texas

Apr 5, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA; A view of the crowd and the fans and the stands during the playing of the Canadian and USA national anthems before the game between the Texas Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays at Globe Life Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Time to Move on From Focused Protection

There follows a guest post from Steve Sieff, creator of GreenBandRedBand.com.

In June 2020 I launched GreenBandRedBand.com. It is a type of what came to be called focused protection. My system proposed a way of people communicating to others if they wanted to be protected from coronavirus or if they were content to run the risk of contracting the virus. Those who were prepared to take the risk would show others how they felt by wearing a green wrist band or some other garment to communicate their position. Those who wanted to be protected but didn’t want to shield at home would wear a red equivalent. Around those requiring protection it was envisaged that all of us would respectfully adopt the measures that were being recommended to help stop the spread of the virus. Although that would still have been disruptive and unwelcome, it would have been far more palatable than being obliged to take measures around those who did not require them, and infinitely more so than laws which criminalised social interaction. So the system seemed to me to strike the right balance between retaining our personal freedoms and respecting the rights and wishes of others.

I’ll take this opportunity to express my thanks to the large numbers of Lockdown Sceptics readers who contacted me to express their support or who purchased bands and to the editorial team for featuring the site on a number of occasions.

A year down the line LS highlighted a Guardian article reporting on a ‘variant’ of my system being used in some places in the U.S., and other readers may recall Freddie Sayers in UnHerd discussing something similar. You might assume that I would welcome news that a similar system is getting some mainstream attention at last.

But times have moved on and in June 2021 I have slightly mixed feelings about it. On the one hand it is great to see that people are realising that they can manage themselves by communicating with each other rather than needing the Government to micromanage their lives. That should have happened from the outset. On the other hand, in places where the vaccines are available to the vulnerable, there is a strong argument that the time for this system is coming to an end because everyone should be ‘green’.

I proposed the system as an alternative to lockdown and restrictions and to recognise that people would rebound from the fear messaging at different rates. It was designed to be sustainable while large numbers of vulnerable people remained. But it was not envisaged to be permanent. As the numbers of vulnerable reduce, so does the need for specific measures to cater for that vulnerability. There comes a point where the position has moved to the extent that it is no longer kind or helpful to continue to indulge fear. Indeed by continuing to do so one risks perpetuating fear unnecessarily.

When GreenBandRedBand.com was conceived, vaccines seemed a long way off. But a year later they are a reality and the rollout in some parts of the world has been rapid. It may be that we manage to improve their efficacy or that we develop more treatments for people who do contract the virus but essentially the vaccines are our best effort. People who are worried about being vulnerable – or who are actually vulnerable – aren’t going to get a better offer than vaccination. So if you aren’t ready to stop asking for protection after vaccination is available to you then it starts to look like you will never be able to be comfortable with normal social interaction. Or in the terms of my system, you absolutely don’t have to be vaccinated to choose green, but if you were red before and being vaccinated isn’t enough to make you choose green, then what will?

Ministers Considering Delaying Freedom Day by a Month to Give Businesses “Certainty”

“The argument is already over” about there being an extension to lockdown, according to one cabinet source. The real question, then, is “for how long will restrictions continue”. Reports suggest that the Government is considering extending lockdown by a month rather than by two weeks so as to give businesses “certainty” that “Freedom Day” won’t be delayed again. Er, come again?

For many businesses – including those which have yet to reopen since the easing of restrictions last month due to the continuation of social distancing guidelines, and those which are taking in little money compared with pre-lockdown levels for the same reason – a four-week extension to lockdown would provide only the certainty that survival will continue to be a great (and potentially impossible) struggle.

The Times has more.

Plans are being discussed for either a two-week or a four-week delay to the final easing of restrictions on June 21st, if the Indian variant of the coronavirus continues to lead to a significant rise in infections and hospital admissions.

The variant now accounts for nine in 10 cases and health leaders called yesterday for delay to prevent hospitals filling up with unvaccinated patients.

Ministers are concerned that a two-week delay would not give businesses the certainty they need because it might have to be extended. They said a four-week delay would ensure that more people in their forties have received two jabs and that the vaccinations have had time to take effect. “This is about giving people certainty,” the source said. “The worst-case scenario is that we ease restrictions and then have to implement them again. This has to be a one-way ticket.”

The Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi today said that the Government must be “really careful” with reopening, telling Times Radio that officials must “continuously learn about how the virus is behaving”.

“We had a very big opening on May 17th where people could meet friends indoors, in a restaurant, in a pub, and socialise indoors as well,” he added. “And I think it’s important that we look at the data very carefully over this weekend and then share it with the nation.”

Some scientific advisers believe a month-long delay that pushes the end of restrictions into the school holidays will allow vaccination to catch up with the faster-spreading strain.

Another cabinet source said that they believed a two-week delay would be sufficient. “By June 21st everyone over 50 who wants a second jab should have had one,” the source said. “You just have to wait another couple of weeks so that they all have full antibody protection. At that point you really have protected the vulnerable.

“Of course there are businesses that want us to stick with June 21st but when Rishi [Sunak, the Chancellor] is letting it be known he’d be happy with a delay you know the argument is already over.”

Worth reading in full.